Brown like me

6 Aug

When I was a little girl, I thought my skin was white. For a time my mental image of myself had fair skin like my mother’s. In reality, I have my father’s brown, trigueña skin.

It’s very funny that people who are not White are very particular about the different shades of dark. In Pakistan being ‘fair’ is a big deal, and even the most educated woman will concoct a mix of whitening creams, because one brand alone is not strong enough. The result is a face that looks lighter than the neck, with deep dark circles around the eyes. Nobody thinks this ghastly combination is strange or unattractive.

In Honduras people do not go to these extremes, at least not when I lived here, but nevertheless I grew up thinking that white skin was beautiful, and I was conscious that I was darker than my mother and my two brothers, who look alike. I remember being introduced to my mother’s friends as a young girl and being told that I was pretty. Trigueñita, pero bien bonitaDark, but very pretty.

This prevailing attitute amongst people must have had an effect on me, even though my parents never made me feel inadequate. The issue lost importance as I grew older, but when you’re a kid, all it takes is a careless remark. A stupid remark in this case, because the majority of people in Honduras are of mestizo descent, that is, a mixture of Native American and Spaniard. Which means brown skin, in different degrees. People like my mother are the exception.

That is why when I was bringing my daughter to Honduras for the first time I was concerned about somebody calling her ‘trigueñita’. They think it’s cute, but I just don’t want my daughter, at her young age, to be aware of the meaning some people attach to skin color. She’ll find out soon enough.

She asked me once about different skin colors. My answer was that people come in different shades, like everything else in nature. I’ve tried to let her know, in a simple, factual way, that we are brown people.

She has understood my meaning because the other day she said to me, as I handed her a crayon: “This elephant is grey. He is not brown like me.”

And this makes me very happy, because I hope my daughter will be a confident, secure person, aware that brown is just another color. And that of course, some of the best things in life are brown, like cinnamon, brown sugar, chocolate, coffee, caramel, rich brown leather…

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3 Responses to “Brown like me”

  1. amiweird August 6, 2007 at 2:21 pm #

    What a lovely blog. I love what you are teaching your daughter.
    Isn’t it interesting how people will say “dark BUT very pretty” like the two can’t exist together.
    I am of Asian descent and growing up in white Australian society I have been told that “I would have been considered very beautiful in Asia” as if I am not considered to be as beautiful as an Anglo-Australian.
    I used to pretend I was white (because I feel that way on the inside due to my adopted upbringing), but as life has gone on I have realised that like you say, my skin and Asian features are what they are without any judgement having to be attached.
    Thanks for a great read.

  2. imani August 20, 2007 at 2:20 am #

    This really was a great read and I can relate to everything in it. I remember some of my classmates in high school having that strange lighter skin on the face, but dark circles around the eyes. Your daughter is very lucky to have a mother actively aware of such issues. :)

  3. Tai August 22, 2007 at 6:32 am #

    My best friend from my girlhood was half Mexican and half Filipina. Though beautiful, she was never happy with her looks. She particularly hated her dark eyes. When she was old enough she got green contacts and bleached her brown hair. Then she was a green-eyed blonde with mocha skin. Actually not such an uncommon sight in Los Angeles, where we grew up. But it seems like everyone was trying to be something they weren’t, in that city.

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